Ellen Connolly from the SMH Good Living cocktail section, recently interviewed Downtown bartender Ben Light about the Atty Cocktail, and then asked him for his own version of the classic. While the article photo makes Ben’s hair looks like it has been in an explosion in a mattress factory, the Atty is proving to be explosively popular in Downtown.
Feminine charms of the green fairy, by Ellen Connolly, SMH Good Living, October 12, 2010
Absinthe, the high-proof herbal liquor that suffered a century-long ban due to its reputed hallucinogenic qualities, has made a delicate return to Sydney bars and is appearing in old and new cocktails. Ben Light, of Downtown at THE COMMONS in Darlinghurst, says a dash or two of the “green fairy” in cocktails is helping to repair the reputation of the misunderstood and often maligned spirit.
“People are wary of it because of its ability to overpower,” Light says. “I like to use (absinthe) in cocktails in moderation as it provides a herbal dimension”
One of his favourites is the Atty, an elegant and feminine tipple invented in the early 1900s. Containing absinthe, creme de violette (a sweet liqueur flavoured by violet roots and leaves), gin and dry vermouth, the flavour of the Attty “seems to change with every sip”
“It’s a surprisingly delicate drink, with floral notes up front from the violette and the lemon zest (garnish) matching nicely with the botanicals in the gin,” Light says. The absinthe provides a lingering anise finish.
Many bartenders these days, including Light, tweak the recipe slightly as the orginial measurements were quite heavy on absinthe and creme de violette. “They were slightly overpowering, pulling back on these ingredients, makes for a more delicate drink.”
Light’s modern twist Lady Friend , is still delicate but uses a base spirit of rye whiskey instead of gin to give the cocktail more body. The vermouth and creme de violette remain but maraschino liqueur replaces absinthe to appeal to a wider audience. “Some people just don’t like the aniseed flavour in drinks” Light says.
As to the drink’s name, he say Atty is short for Attilio, a popular women’s name around the time the drink was created. “It’s likely the drink was named for a certain lady friend of the bartender,” he says. “I thought I’d do similarly with the new cocktail, but leave my options open.”
The cocktail is served over cracked ice in an old-fashioned glass, garnished with lemon zest for aroma and freshly picked native flowers. “I decided to put it on the rocks to soften the rye flavours a little and allow the drink to grow over time. The lemon oils really bring out the best of all these spirits and the flowers are a nice delicate and feminine touch that I picked from the garden at THE COMMONS. This ties the drink back to the place it was invented.”
Like the Atty, the modern twist has a great depth of flavour, “but its sweeter and more rounded,” Light says.